Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Street stars say farewell to Tarmey

Pall bearers carry the coffin of Coronation Street star Bill Tarmey as it arrives at Albion United Reformed Church in Ashton-under-Lyne
Retired actress Liz Dawn, who played Vera Duckworth, arrives at Albion United Reformed Church, in Ashton-under-Lyne
Coronation Street actress Samia Ghadi leaves Albion United Reformed Church in Ashton-under-Lyne following the funeral of Bill Tarmey

Stars of Coronation Street have gathered to pay their respects to Bill Tarmey, who played the soap's Jack Duckworth for three decades.

The actor became one of TV's most recognisable faces as the long-suffering husband to nagging battleaxe Vera, played by Liz Dawn. Their endearing on-screen partnership was one of the most popular in soap history and gave the ITV1 show some of its funniest and most memorable moments.

Manchester-born Tarmey died at his holiday home in Tenerife on November 9, aged 71. The former builder dreamed of becoming a singing star and was eking out a living as a crooner in working men's clubs before joining Coronation Street in 1977 as an extra to supplement his earnings.

Tarmey landed the role of Jack Duckworth two years later and, despite his modesty about his acting ability, a Street legend was born, to the extent that he did not leave the show until 31 years later.

Around 700 people packed into the Albion United Reformed Church in Ashton-under-Lyne for his funeral service, joining his wife of 50 years, Ali, and the couple's two children, Carl and Sara, to say a final goodbye.

Among the mourners were Dawn, who left the soap in 2008 through ill health, Nigel Pivaro, who played Tarmey's on-screen son Terry Duckworth, and Alan Halsall, whose character, Tyrone Dobbs, looked up to Jack Duckworth as a father figure.

Other Street stars past and present in attendance were William Roache (Ken Barlow), Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch), Roy Barraclough (Alec Gilroy), Sally Dynevor (Sally Webster), Brooke Vincent (Sophie Webster), Sue Nicholls (Audrey Roberts), Michael Le Vell (Kevin Webster), Helen Worth (Gail Platt), Shobna Gulati (Sunita Alahan), Kate Ford (Tracy Barlow), Jennie McAlpine (Fiz Stape) and Kevin Kennedy (Norman "Curly" Watts).

In the order of service for William Cleworth-Piddington, Tarmey's real name, his family said: "Ali and all Bill's family would like to thank you for your attendance today and for the overwhelming messages of comfort and support they have received during this difficult time."

Eulogies were given by Samia Ghadie, who plays Maria Connor, and Pivaro. Ghadie said: "He was genuinely one of the most decent and honourable men you could ever wish to meet. Jack and Vera were a truly unforgettable and formidable partnership, and I doubt we'll ever see that again. They were simply iconic and Jack Duckworth will forever be a true Coronation Street legend. On behalf of everyone who works at Coronation Street and has worked on the programme during its 52 years, and the loyal viewers who have followed the programme throughout these years - Bill, we salute you. And thank you Bill for being the light in our lives for all those years and for bringing so much joy and happiness to millions of people. We love you, we already miss you and we'll never ever forget you."

Fighting back tears throughout, she said: "So many of us here will share great memories of Bill. He made me laugh so much that on occasions I'd be crying with laughter. He was wise, kind, honest, warm-hearted and had the most generous spirit."